Well, I’ve learned a couple of intriguing things lately.
One is something I’ve known for a while: when I get obsessed with something, it’s all I can think about for days and days.
And all I’ve been thinking about is popcorn in it’s most recent incarnation chez David, as golden, buttery, sweet and crispy Caramel Corn.
I’ve learned so much about America’s favorite snack (it is, isn’t it?) but after making 7 enormous batches of Caramel Corn, my main tip is: don’t make popcorn dressed in only a bath towel.
It gets swelteringly hot here in Paris in my petit kitchen, and it’s too darn uncomfortable if I wear too much. The second thing I’ve learned is that a hastily-wrapped towel around your waist can easily slip off while making popcorn, and it’s impossible to stop and ‘re-adjust’ everything properly…especially when there’s projectile edibles exploding out of searing-hot oil.
So let’s just say the combination of a flimsy towel, unintentional nudity, and scorching-hot corn kernels does not make a happy baker.
Trust me. I’ve learned.
So, ahem, moving on…here’s a few things I’ve learned about popcorn recently in my quest for the ultimate, perfect Caramel Corn…
(…and no…that’s not popcorn shrimp!)
Success in the popcorn arena depends on many things. Much of it depends on the freshness of whatever brand and whichever popping technique that you use. Another factor may be how securely you knot your towel around your waist when you pop the popcorn, although can’t provide empirical evidence.
I think the popcorn that I found was not super-fresh (my first clue should have been the depiction of the late World Trade Center on the package.) When popped, it yielded relatively little popcorn. Success in popcorn-making can depend on the hybridized variety of popcorn used as well as the moistness of the popcorn kernels and how they’ve been stored (which is why you shouldn’t buy popcorn from open-bins…or with packaging featuring expired landmarks.)
In general, the rule is that ¼ cup of popcorn kernels should yield about 8 cups of cooked popcorn.
A reader emailed me to tell me she likes Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn. Good luck. Try explaining who Orville Redenbacker is to a Parisian, missy! (I’d have a better chance finding Paul Newman, I imagine…)
Since I don’t have a microwave oven, I couldn’t try that, but I know le micro-onde makes excellent popcorn because there’s no direct source of heat and the packaging is air-tight. My only problem with microwave popcorn is the panoply of ingredients added to “preserve freshness” and the text-heavy list of faux flavorings.
My expat-pal Judy passed on various recipes for me to try. The most intriguing recommended baking the Caramel Corn for up to 45 minutes after it’s glazed. So I re-tried my recipe, spreading the Caramel Corn on two non-stick baking sheets and cooking it at 300° F for 30 minutes, stirring it midpoint through baking.
The ‘baked’ popcorn was a bit crisper and the glaze was a bit thinner. However since the Caramel Corn got stirred, it lost the lustrous glossy sheen of my last successful batch. Still it was glorious, and was the perfect dessert last night after we celebrated a friend’s birthday at the cavernous Sinorama Chinese restaurant (135, avenue de Choisy) in the thirteen arrondissement. It was the perfect accompaniment to the quivering Mango Pudding served with fresh fruits which was devoured by all.
Who knew that a classic American treat after a Chinese banquet served in France to a diverse group of friends from France, America, Switzerland, and Germany, would be so well-received?
The entire batch was gobbled up quickly.
And so goes another one of my petits attempts at international diplomacy here in Paris, albeit via something sweet. (Hey, it works every time…)
So…after 7 tries, I’ve used up all my popcorn and while all my dental fillings are still intact, I’m quitting while I’m ahead.
UPDATE: You can find my recipe for Caramel Corn here.